It’s been a number of years since St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was small enough to fit amidst the ‘culture’ of Melbourne alleyways. Lest we forget the sensation of desperately needing to pee whilst dancing awkwardly to The Avalanches in the top end of Caledonian Lane in 2005. The festival started out as an ambitious extension of an already ambitious string of business propositions most notably the namesake St. Jerome’s. For those who never encountered St Jerome’s, just know that it was ‘the spot’ where you could purchase an average coffee made in absolute spite by socialites turned baristas. The venue would be populated by scene kids smoking darts whilst perched on milk crates in the vicinity of dumpsters, ‘street art’ and other self-proclaimed ‘creative’ types. These visits would extend into the night when they would exchange their shit coffee for shit beers, listening to do-it-yourself DJs and building a tolerance for the overflowing bathrooms (and I don’t just mean piss on the floor). It wasn’t really a destination screaming of professionalism and success, in fact it was kind of a dump – but I always came back. I came back because it was cool not to care. Apathy was like, totally big back then. The counter culture and the subcultures that St. Jerome’s fostered still remain as one of the most iconic Melbourne scenes to date. If someone told me in 2005 that St Jerome’s Laneway Festival would be touring across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore in 2017 I would have shut down the absurdity of the claim in a second. Success was such a dystopian consideration for the scene kids who listened to post-punk and thrived on their self-appointed notions of ‘struggle’.
I’ve attended so many Laneway Festivals now that it’s almost a novelty for me to draw comparisons between the current Triple J audience and the bunch of misfits that attended the original events. There’s an element of nostalgia that keeps me returning each year, but the driving force behind my attendance definitely stems from my curiosity of how a shit little festival for brats by brats has stayed in the game so long? How have they managed to retain the punk ethos of the original St. Jerome’s venue and evolve it into a highly successfully touring festival and managed to stay relevant every step of the way? I’d say it’s a combination of the social savvy of Jerome Borazio, the business smarts of Danny Rogers, the finesse of Bossy Music and the ever influential ‘Triple J effect’. I’m still trying to work it out.
After I left the 2017 event I looked at my notes the first of which simply said ‘So many people, so much rubbish’. There really were a lot of people there. It was well over capacity for the venue. My reference to rubbish was a combination of actual litter, shade towards people, and my attitude. I overheard someone saying ‘Festivals aren’t as good as gigs’, which was a relief to know that someone else was being way more of a bummer than me. Being a bummer was the OG St. Jerome’s way.
Frosé and Fried Chicken in Footscray
After my obnoxious rampage at Sugar Mountain the other week, I made an extremely grown decision to practice sobriety at Laneway Festival. It was a let down to alcohol sponsors everywhere. Admittedly, I had considered downing an expired packet of Nodoz Plus I found in my pantry before realising it was a few years out of date. I kept thinking about the Laneway Festival preview party a few months back atop Melbourne Central when they announced that Young Thug would be joining the bill. I think we all knew it wouldn’t happen but it was nice to entertain the idea. They also announced that Frosé would be the drink of the summer. Frozen rosé didn’t get me overly excited but combine the drink with complimentary Belle’s Hot Chicken (remember, catering is the major key!) and I’m all yours. Naturally, I went looking for both upon my arrival at the festival. I could not spot Belle’s Hot Chicken anywhere. I settled for Juanita’s Peaches but by the time I lined up they were completely sold out of fried chicken. FML. I did manage to find the Frosé machine however. It was set up all fancy with its own bar near the Dean Turner stage. Unfortunately, after taste testing the product for free, the $13 price tag had me shook but the large group of people nearby nursing a Frosé in hand confirmed the prophecy to be true: Frosé was indeed the drink of the summer.
Portaloos, PIP, and Privilege
It’s not a festival if I’m not talking about portaloos. They had a line of them in the PIP section. I did not spot a single Aesop sample inside those portaloos which confirmed my suspicion that the used packets I spotted at Sugar Mountain were in fact ‘art’. PIP wristbands are distributed to what I’d assume are media, guests of talent, workers, and socially relevant people of sorts. I’m going to assume that PIP stands for ‘Pretty Important Person’ as opposed to ‘Very Important Person’ which is a great way to deflate the socially relevant egos in attendance. For those who have never experienced the PIP lifestyle, let me walk you through the glamour of (not quite) backstage. Basically, you walk in to face literally everyone you know from the club, the internet, and your DMs. That’s it. Once you’re in, then you really need to apply your tactical skills to navigate through the small talk in order to get to the bar down the end. But I wasn’t drinking, so R.I.P me.
I am still the fashion blogger that nobody deserves (or wants)
After my last stint as a self-appointed fashion blogger, I decided that I would continue this scam at Laneway Festival. I lingered the merch booth to get familiar with the designs before setting off into the crowd to locate the band stans. Nick Murphy had a red print on a black long sleeve number, super minimal but not overly fuccboi and noticeably different to his old Chet Faker merch. Definitely spotted a few of those around. I saw the OG King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard ringer tees on all of the people you would expect to be wearing an OG King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard ringer tee. Merch item of the day was inevitably going to be the Tame Impala x Braindead collab which was predictably slung across the shoulders of private school boys all over the festival. Sunglasses were wilder this year and bum-bags were aplenty. I mean, who isn’t trying to dress like a hypebeast at the function? There were less ill-fitting overalls, jelly sandals, and felt hats this year which was a relief. Not a single Roshe Run was spotted. Sneaker of the day was your classic Converse Chuck Taylor followed closely by Havaianas. And I thought Birkenstocks were a sin! The slapping sound of a rubber thong against a moist foot will haunt me to the depths of my grave. I don’t know if it was an in-joke that I didn’t get but I saw a total of three of those red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps over the course of the day. It’s a miracle that I didn’t confiscate them and throw them in the bin where they belong. Smh.
Shine on at the Spinning Top Stage
The first act to catch my full attention was A.B. Original. I expected them to attract a large crowd. What I didn’t expect was a deeply captured crowd singing along to socially conscious lyrics. The crowd absolutely lost it when A.B. Original performed their ‘Dumb Things’ cover from Triple J’s ‘Like a Version’. Briggs told the crowd that if they looked hard enough then Paul Kelly would appear. He didn’t. Sampa the Great absolutely blew me away. She very much solidified her position as a culturally significant artist with this performance. She took to the mic to recite her track ‘HERoes’ – “Who am I to be a hero? Who am I not to be?”. She wore a flowing patchwork cape and proceeded to turn her back to the audience. The patchwork cape began moving across the audiences raised arms. As her set came to a close I noticed people starting to take the cape apart which created individual capes that people then wore. I saw these floating around the festival well into the night. The concept was extremely well considered and perfectly executed. I was dying to witness Floating Points play his live set. Floating Points’ set conflicted with Nick Murphy’s slot at the main stage which definitely took away from his audience, but the intimate setting meant the audience was highly engaged. Well, except for the old rock dog who stood between myself and a random to point at Floating Points to say “Oh look it’s a computer!”. Yeah we get it, DJs aren’t real musicians right? The guy next to me shut him right down saying “Nah those are synths, mate”. The old guy clapped back with “Like an IBM keyboard?” Nah fam. Shortly after, a much younger guy pushed his way to the front to make an Instagram story before asking me “Is this Tycho?” Sigh.
The stage formerly known as Red Bull x Future Classic
Over the last few years I have spent most of my time loitering around the Red Bull x Future Classic stage so inevitably I gravitated towards it. The first thing I noticed this year was the lack of Red Bull branding. Flashback to last year when Vince Staples denounced Red Bull as a sponsor before confessing his undying loyalty to (his personal sponsor) Sprite. Oops. Vince Staples played the highlight set of the festival last year, so it was dope to watch Clams Casino on the same stage this year playing the tracks they made together. Mr. Carmack threw down some bangers. I kept hearing about Mick Jenkins but hadn’t had a chance to listen to him yet. I saw Baro in the audience which gave me some hope but then I saw a random dude do five consecutive dabs to the track Mick Jenkins played which quickly made me lose hope. It was all good though. His set was dope and I definitely left with the knowledge that he is a real advocate for drinking more water (not Sprite).
Stop trying to make ‘The Tame Train’ happen, it’s not going to happen
I honestly heard ‘A Thousand Miles’ by Vanessa Carlton playing in my head as I walked the path to the main stage. When did the walk get this long? I still remember when the main stage was located by the bridge, which has since expanded in length and then outwards which was testament to how much Laneway Festival has grown in size even in the last few years. I bumped into Nick Murphy’s manager prior to his performance on the main stage and sang my praises for the name change from Chet Faker. He said his cab driver approved too so I wasn’t alone in my support. Nick Murphy’s slot conflicted with Floating Points so I only got to see him perform half a song but I can assure you that most of the festival was present during his set. The only other time I really made a conscious effort to trek to the main stage was to see Tame Impala. People were literally running to see them. A guy behind me kept loudly trying to make ‘The Tame Train’ happen but much like ‘fetch’ it wasn’t going to happen. I got as far as the back bar before body slamming into a sea of people. I watched on as Briggs introduce Tame Impala before realising ‘the stage’ I was watching was actually a screen projecting what was happening on the actual stage which was in fact another kilometre away. Tame Impala sounded exactly like their recordings. I actually listened to ‘Currents’ a number of times so it didn’t surprise me that I knew all of the words to one of the songs. I later realised the song I was singing along to was ‘New person, same ol’ mistakes’ AKA the song Rihanna infamously covered on Anti. Tame Impala is a very good band. They had tripped out visuals and confetti guns. The crowd was extra af. A dude screamed “I lost me thong” into the night. Ah, so many people, so much rubbish.